A kindergarten has been forced to apologise after it dressed its children in black outfits similar to Isis fighters and handed them toy guns during an Indonesian independence day parade.
Staff at the TK Kartika nursery in the city of Probolinggo, East Java, expressed “regret” over the incident and insisted they had no intention to “instil violence” or promote radicalism.
The children had taken part in the parade, held to mark Indonesia’s 73rd independence day, clutching fake firearms resembling AK47s and wearing black veils across their faces.
Their outfits prompted outrage in the world’s largest Muslim nation. Some social media users said the costumes were “not in accordance with Indonesian culture” after footage of the march emerged online.
The kindergarten's head, Kartika V Hartatik said the insitituiton had tried to “save funds” by fashioning the costumes from props used in similar parades last year.
“I regret it, I apologise very deeply,” he told BBC Indonesia. “We never thought about the impact. The important thing was to take part in the parade and the children were happy using the props."
The nursery had reportedly chosen “the struggle of the prophet to increase faith and devotion to Allah” as their theme for the parade.
Lieutenant Colonel Kav Depri Rio Saransi said nursery leaders “purely utilised props stored at the kindergarten,” when the outfits were devised.
“There was not the slightest bit of radicalism,” he told a press conference.
The spectre of Islamic extremism is a concern for many Indonesians, who have seen attitudes towards religious conservatism in the country soften in recent years.
A study by government intelligence agencies in 2017 found almost a quarter of college and high school students now consider violent jihad an acceptable means to transform the nation into an Islamic state.
The parade committee said they had not vetted the costumes before the event, but had informed participants this year’s theme was “art and culture in Indonesia.”
They added: “We held a cultural parade with the aim of promoting art and culture in Indonesia among the children, so we are sorry this happened. We apologise for the costumes, it was our negligence.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies